08. Young Morgan

        No. 8.

Young Morgani

Young Morgan was a rattling blade1
No lad of better courage.
Much Gold he got on the highway
Which made him daily flourish.
Grand Bagnios2 was his lodgings then
Among the flashy lasses.3
He soon became a gentleman
And left of[f] driving Asses.4

i. I am not certain this is the title, and remember only
the first verse.


Editor's notes:

1. Rattling blade: fashionable and showy roisterer.

2. Grand Bagnios: large brothels

3. Flashy lasses: Showy and fashionable women, here with a clear sense that they are prostitutes; women working in the sex trade often dressed in fashionable clothing to attract custom.

4. In this context the last two lines are obscure. In fuller versions the emphasis is on Young Morgan beginning to rob from the rich, rather than the poor. So "becoming a gentleman" might imply success at thieving, the fashions of the flashy lasses rubbing off on him, and getting older. "Driving" was a cant word for having sexual intercourse (see Gee Ho Dobbin), so might imply that his experiences with the flashy women at the Grand Bagnios gave him a taste for the highlife and he no longer wanted to have sex with poorer, less well-dressed women. It is also possible that his job involved driving asses (as with Sandman Joe), and the sense here is that he gave up his gainful employment to begin a life of theft because he now had aspirations to be a gentleman, having been exposed to fashionable living at the Bagnio.



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This ballad was printed several times, by Catnach (see the Baring Collection of Broadsides in the British Library (BL I.2, fo 89)) the full ballad is also reprinted in ‘Horae Catnachianae,’ Fraser’s Magazine, 19 (1839): pp.413-4. It also appeared in a small booklet of songs printed in Newcastle as "Young Morgan's Garland". The Roud Index identifies several other versions including in the Madden Collection (Item no 624, 561 ), and the Bodleian, printed by H. Such. It also lists a sequel “Young Morgan; Or The Highway Man’s exploits in France” (Roud V2037). 

Transcribed below is a version printed by an anonymous printed and collected in the Bodleian broadside ballads archive as Firth c.17(16).

Young Morgan was a lusty blade,
A Blade of noble courage
Much Gold he got on the highway
That made him daily flourish;
In Wentworth-street his lodgings was,
Among the flashy lasses,
Until he came to a gentleman
That was a driving asses

Thro' Hounslow Heath, and Putney too,
Me and my noble poachers,
Me and my pals like lightning flew,
When we heard the sound of coaches.
Stand and deliver was my word,
To me make no denial,
Now young Morgan is caught at last,
At the start to take his trial.

I thought I heard the people say,
As I rode through the city,
That such a clever youth should die,
They thought it was a pity;
I though I heard such humane calls,
That set me tears a flowing,
Now young Morgan he's tried and cast,
Out of this world he's going.

I was a captain of a gang,
But now in low condition,
Neither the judge or magistrates,
They show me no compassion.
Oh, why should I refuse to dies,
For now or ever after,
For now the captain he is gone,
The men must follow after.

It should be noted that there is considerable variation in the different printings of this song, the one printed in Young Morgan's Garland is notably longer, and quite different in places.

Mike Yates recorded Phoebe Smith singing a variant of this ballad in 1975/6, called “Young Morgan he got catched at last”  it was included on the album The Yellow Handkerchief - Traditional songs and ballads from England's greatest gypsy singer (Veteran VT136CD).

Martin Carthy sang a version of it on his album Waiting For Angels. 

Further reading:

Mike Yates, Young Morgan: Veracity and Meaning  https://www.mustrad.org.uk/articles/y_morgan.htm.

View in Roud Index